Jammu: Over 1,000 pilgrims of the first batch of this year’s annual Amarnath Yatra left Jammu on Wednesday for the high-altitude cave shrine in Kashmir Valley.
State Health Minister Chowdhary Lal Singh flagged off a convoy of 34 vehicles carrying 1,280 pilgrims from Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas here towards the valley.
This year’s yatra to the 14,500 ft. high Himalayan cave shrine, in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, is spread over 59 days. It will begin on Thursday.
Pilgrims use the south Kashmir Pahalgam and the north Kashmir Baltal routes to reach the cave shrine.
Two base camps – one at Baltal and the other at Nunwan (Pahalgam) – have been set up from where the pilgrims will begin an uphill mountain trek to reach the cave.
The shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure called the ‘Lingam’ symbolizes mythical powers of Lord Shiva.
A three-tier security drawn from the army, the central paramilitary forces and the state police have been deployed to guard the yatra, which has been attacked by separatist guerrillas in the past. (IANS)
India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.
“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.
Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.
On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.
The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.
The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.
The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.
The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.
In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.
Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.
“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.